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  • Topic: Julia Kristeva, Femme fatale, Romantic comedy film
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  • Published : January 8, 2015
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How Julia Kristeva's theory of 'Abjection' works in relation to the film 'Alien' (1979).

The 'abject' is a complex psychological concept developed by Julia Kristeva in her book "Powers of Horror: an Essay in Abjection" (1980). "Abject" is that which "…disturbs identity, system, order." Essentially anything that threatens to destabilise the "symbolic order" with the reminder of the "semiotic order". Throughout this essay I am going to talk about Kristeva's theory of abjection and relate it to the film "Alien" from 1979. In particular I plan to focus on the way in which the film portrays the abject idea of childbirth and they way it is represented in the film, that forces us to address the deep fears we have when faced with concepts we consider to be inherently 'vile' and 'disturbing'. According to Kristeva, the semiotic order is when there is no separation between a mother and her child. The child would usually begin at around 4-8 months to push away certain things in order to distance itself from its mother to identify with itself as a separate entity. The things that are pushed away become 'abject', and this includes the mother. This is the symbolic order. When the mother is rejected, and becomes abject, so is everything associated with the maternal body, so for example blood, the womb - these things are all "cast out" and become a source of disgust to the child. From then on, the maternal is horrifying; anything 'abject' threatens the child's sense of identity, their sense of cleanliness. As a result we consider blood, gore and things like corpses as well as bodily functions to be vile. In the film "Alien" it can be said that the female is represented as abject, and that it objectifies the roles of the female and childbirth as a way of giving new life. It includes the fears and subjects we usually repress. In the 1970's and 80's there were a lot of films made that included anxieties of the human body and "Alien" is definitely one of these. The Alien itself is made up of both male and female-like body parts. The head is very phallic looking, and there is an emphasis on its biological elements, like its blood and the way it secretes a kind of slime or mucus. These things we would regard as abject and disgusting in our watching of the film, because it's forcing us to confront innate human fears of the abject that we would usually repress into our subconscious. Throughout the film, there are various scenes that could be considered potential metaphors for birth. One of these is the very first scene where the characters are woken up by a computer after the crew have all been frozen on the journey back to Earth. They lie in very incubator-like beds and are dressed in white cloths that resemble the kind that newborn babies, born in hospital wear. The aforementioned computer that wakes them has a female voice and is actually referred to in the film as 'Mother'. It offers and embodies a very maternal presence in that in waking the crew from sleep, 'Mother' is, in a sense, giving them life, reflecting the way in which our mothers gave birth to us, and idea we might usually reject as abject. We reject it because the idea of childbirth usually corresponds to blood, mess and trauma. This would upset the want for cleanliness that comes with the process of abjection of the mother. In "Alien" however, the room in which they are in is very clean and white, it's quite hospital-like. The 'birth' process is not traumatic or loud, there's no pain, and everything is very much in control. It suggests the use of machines have allowed humans to fully reject the idea of birth by having new technological advances control it, rather than letting nature take it's course and relying on biology for new life. Another representation of birth is shown in the scene where the alien itself is introduced. When the crew enter the empty, abandoned spacecraft they enter through portals that resemble female genitalia. It then follows that they enter into a...
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